I don’t run five miles a day. I walk 10,000 steps. Up and down stairs. Through school hallways. Across parking lots. Down grocery store aisles.

I don’t get up at 4:30 in the morning to train.I get up at 2:30, 3:30 and 4:30 . . . to comfort an upset soul. To get a glass of water. To make another bottle.

I don’t lift weights. I lift toys. Potty seats. Broken spirits.

I don’t train with a group. I’m on my own. Learning as I go. A new challenge each day.

I don’t run my “race” surrounded by cheering crowds. I travel my journey encompassed by family. Friends. Soul sisters.

There are days when motherhood is nothing short of a marathon. Nonstop running around. On legs that can barely stand. A mental game like no other.Pushing. Convincing.Digging. To fold one more load. To put a sweet being back to bed for the 10th time, at 3:00 in the morning…when you have to be up at 5:00. Running on an empty tank. Because you didn’t have time to eat, as you were too busy refueling others. Exhausted.From those late-nights-rolling-straight-into-the-before-the-sun-wakes-upmornings.

I don’t change my clothes because they are soaked from an intense workout.I change my clothes because they are covered in a hard day’s work. Spilled juice. The aftermath of a sick baby.

I don’t wear layers to train in the elements; I layer my clothes to weather the frigid temperatures of my daughter’s soccer game.

I don’t lace my shoes to hit the pavement. I tie my laces to hit the playground. The sports fields. The mud puddles.

You see, running used to be my thing. For years. My way of letting it all out, while taking it all in. The ultimate mental game of setting goals. And reaching them. Breaking records and obtaining new ones. Pushing myself. Through the pain. The cramps. The pounding heart. The pumping lungs. The stress fractures. The imploding thoughts of quitting.

I loved it.I needed it. It kept me above water.

But, there’s a point where running a marathon and running through motherhood differ.

When I ran in high school and college, I had an entourage of cheerleaders. Coaches. Assistant coaches. My teammates. Family. Friends. Classmates. My sister. Literally yelling and screaming in my ear. Motherhood . . . not so much. You are playing the mental game. Oh yes, sweet friend, playing that game 24-7. But without the constant stream of cheerleaders by your side. You are it.Pulling out your pom-poms. Each and every day.

You are it, off the starting blocks, when a feverish little sweetie crawls into your bed, looking for early morning comfort.

You are it, midday, when the favorite stuffed buddy lost its tail, and the tears are pouring down in buckets.

You are it, in the homestretch of the evening, pulling out any trick imaginable to keep tiny mouths open just long enough to clean their pearly little whites.

You are it, crossing the finish line, reading the same bedtime story for the 7th night this week, attempting to tuck everyone in bed (or back in bed), dragging your feet down the hallway, tip-toeing down the stairs . . . and looking back on your day, wondering how exactly you managed to make it through.

I used to run 1-3 miles every day, before our first precious little babe arrived. And I tried. Believe me, I tried to keep up. But I couldn’t balance it all.Something had to go. A baby requires full attention. Three babes? Times those requirements by three. And with a husband who sacrifices everything possible to support his family gone more often than not, I was one exhausted mama. So I let it go. And I miss it. More than words could express. It is a goal of mine to one day be able to run a half-marathon, or possibly full marathon. Marathon runners amaze me.

But you know who amazes me even more? Mothers. Because their race never stops.

Originally published on the author’s blog

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Liz Spenner

Liz is a former elementary teacher and now a stay-at-home mama to five little ones. She writes as an inspiration to other women, and most especially mothers on her blog, at www.simplycomplexmom.com. Liz loves spending with her family, outside as often as possible, as well as sneaking a few moments to herself with a run, dark chocolate or cup of tea.